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Vol. 80/No. 35      September 19, 2016

(front page)

Agreement to end Colombia-FARC war opens door for class struggle

The government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group announced Aug. 24 that after nearly four years of talks they have reached a “definitive agreement,” ending more than 50 years of hostilities, the longest armed conflict in the history of Latin America.

Cuba’s revolutionary government was instrumental in facilitating the negotiations, hosted in Havana, with Cuba and Norway as “guarantor” countries and Chile and Venezuela “accompanying” countries. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been a proponent of a negotiated end to the conflict for decades.

The agreement puts working people in Colombia in a better position to defend their interests without the obstacle of the war, which was often used as an excuse for government clampdowns on political and labor rights.

Some 80 percent of the 220,000 people who were killed during the war were civilians, the big majority at the hands of rightist paramilitaries, soldiers or police. More than 10 percent of Colombia’s 47 million inhabitants were displaced.

While in the last half decade the number of killings by paramilitary groups and the military has dropped dramatically, more than 110 trade unionists have been killed since 2009, according to Human Rights Watch.

As part of the accord the FARC will be allowed to form a political party after turning over its weapons to a United Nations mission. The new party will be guaranteed five seats in the Colombian House and five in the Senate in the elections of 2018 and 2022, regardless of the outcome of voting.

Amnesty will be granted to those who committed “political” crimes. Those found guilty of “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity” will be held for a time in special centers, not prisons. The government agreed it would not extradite demobilized guerrillas, blocking Washington from attempting to bring them to the U.S. for trial on alleged drug trafficking charges. The agreement will be voted on in an Oct. 2 plebiscite.

The Colombian Senate voted overwhelmingly Aug. 29 to approve holding the referendum. Former President Alvaro Uribe is campaigning against it.

In the 1960s, several guerrilla groups grew out of peasant struggles for land and resistance to repression and massacres by Colombia’s U.S-backed capitalist rulers. Today just 0.4 percent of the population owns 62 percent of the best land and 83 percent of farmers lack agricultural machinery.

The FARC became the largest group. It was formed in 1964 by peasant leader Manuel Marulanda, then a member of the Communist Party of Colombia, which looked to the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union for political guidance. The FARC split from the Communist Party in 1993.

At its height the FARC organized more than 10,000 combatants and occupied large swaths of the Colombian countryside, but in recent years had lost ground to government offensives.

Under Plan Colombia, initiated by the administration of President Bill Clinton, Washington has sent military aid totaling nearly $10 billion to Colombia since 2000, ostensibly aimed both at eliminating coca and at the guerrillas.

‘FARC didn’t intend to take power’

Unlike Cuba, where the Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro began organizing land reform, literacy campaigns and other revolutionary measures in areas under rebel control even before it succeeded in overthrowing the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, the FARC and other guerrilla groups left capitalist economic and social relations intact in the areas they controlled.

While guerrilla groups denied U.S. and Colombian government charges that they were involved in drug trafficking, they defended the collection of a tax on those involved in the drug trade, like they did on other capitalist enterprises.

The guerrilla leaders never saw the armed struggle as a road to increasing the self-confidence, class-consciousness and discipline of workers and farmers to rapidly take political power. Instead, Marulanda “conceived a lengthy and prolonged struggle,” Castro explained in the book La paz en Colombia (Peace in Colombia), published in 2008. Castro also criticized the methods of the Colombian guerrillas of taking both civilians and soldiers hostage. (See page 7.)

The Armando Rios First Front, the 200-strong FARC unit famous for holding presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt hostage for six years, announced July 6 it doesn’t intend to disarm. The National Liberation Army (ELN), another guerrilla group, has said it is willing to negotiate with the government.
Related articles:
Lessons of Cuban Revolution valuable in Colombia
Fidel Castro’s 2008 book discusses how Cuban fighters took power, course of leaders of FARC
Rebel Army’s moral values key to overthrow of Batista
UN caused cholera epidemic in Haiti; Cuban doctors fought it
IRS attack on Pastors for Peace is aimed at solidarity with Cuba
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